23 Nov

Does your mirror say that you’re happy?

Banner - Sunrise

In my day job, I do a lot of zoom meetings, and every time, I’m struck by how similar people look on zoom.

You can get 20 images, side by side in a big grid. 20 faces looking back at you. And they all frown. Every single one.

Granted, I’m from Sweden and Swedes are a bit of a dour people. We don’t have that compulsory, smiling thing that they do in Japan, or that big “I love everything in the world is great”-thing they do in the USA.

But still, I’ve spoken to people from other countries on zoom, and they don’t look much happier than I do. Read More

16 Nov

A Note on Time

Banner - Typewriter

Banner - Typewriter

I like to fool myself that I’ve got a fairly decent sense time. This, of course, is utter hogwash.

Humans live in relative time. We simply do not know how time passes, we can’t feel it, can’t predict it. And it’s doing pretty weird things to our sense of self, or rather our sense of accomplishment.

For example, I’ve been writing every day. For the past month, every single day. But some days, even though I’ve marked down that I’ve written, even though the writing has felt quite long and hard, I haven’t accomplished much.

Other days, even though I feel that I’ve just written a little bit and I would have liked to write more, I’ve written thousands of words.

Both of these feelings are false.

Fortunately, I’m pretty good at noting when I start and stop my writing sprints. And amazingly on the days when the writing has felt like it’s taken forever but I haven’t accomplished much, I haven’t spent much time writing.

Fancy that.

See, my writing speed is fairly constant around 1500 usable words per hour. So it’s the total amount of time I spend writing that determines my total output. It’s simple math. However, when I consult my feelings, it’s anything but simple.

On days when I produce less, I feel that I’ve spent more time and more effort on my writing, and on days that I produce more, I generally feel that I’ve spent less time and less energy to produce more.

What’s going on?

What’s going on, is that my flow, my enthusiasm, and my natural fear of encountering difficulties collaborate to make my sense of time as accurate as that of a five-year-old waiting for Santa Claus.

But the more sprint’s I do, the less that feeling persists. Basically, the more I write, the more I feel like writing, and the less time and effort I feel that I’m spending.

Note the key word “feel” here. It’s got nothing to do with actual, observable, measurable time. Everything is about feeling. That’s why time gets shorter the more I write.

It’s a like warming up before a workout. You warm up, and warm up, and it’s hard. You’re still stiff, maybe hurting a bit from the last workout, and things aren’t going so great. But then you move along into the exercise itself. And after about 10, or 15, or 20, or however many, minutes, you hit your stride.

You’re feeling good about it. You’re no longer thinking about how heavy those weights are or how long you’ve been running or biking or swimming. You’re just doing your thing, in the zone.

Writing is exactly like that. Getting into the zone takes time and that time feels like a long, hard slog with a heavy backpack. In absolute terms it can be minutes, maybe quarter of an hour at most, before things get into flow. But those beginning moments, the warm up to the writing feel long. Especially before you begin, when they feel infinite.

That little warm up hump is enough to put a lot of people off, stop them from writing entirely. I know that I’m one.

My methods to break through this brain-hurdle is to count my writing as starting. If I just sit down and start, I get to count that day as having written.

This means that no moment, even if it’s only three minutes of cycling through old text, is wasted. I get to chalk it up as writing.

It gets me past the hard relative time and into the easy relative time. Not always, but often enough. Not reliably, but often enough that I can reach that relative time that just flows, effortlessly and swiftly, like a brook in spring where the words tumble, waiting to be caught.

It doesn’t always work. I’ve got days where the beginning time really feels infinite, and I can’t get past it. I’ve got days when I’m too stressed out, too tired, to worn and depressed and just plain fed up to write.

But the more I write, and the more used I get to the habit of starting, the quicker I get into fast time.

And that’s where I want to be.

09 Nov

Flexible yet indomitable

Banner - Old tree

Banner - Old tree

You want to be flexible. Not like water, which will flow around anything, but will be stopped by a simple dam, be pumped away, forced into a new path, evaporate, or simply sink into oblivion.

You want to be indomitable. Not like a rock, which is hard and strong, but once cracked, will never heal itself.

No, you want to be flexible, yet indomitable. Like a tree.

A tree will grow past any obstacles, cracking concrete, breaking through rock. It will stand against hurricanes and floods, shaking, bending, but resuming its growth once the storm passes.

Read More

28 Mar

Finding Your Heroes

It’s been a while since I wrote something here, so I’m a bit rusty. But this is something I need to say, and hopefully something you need to listen to:

Find your heroes.

Simple as that. Call them mentors or teachers, parents or guides, I don’t care. To me they are heroes, people I look up to, people I want to emulate.

For a long time I had no idea how to do it. Isaac Asimov‘s dead. So’s Jack Vance. Ursula Le’Guin died a month ago. Louis McMaster-Bujold, Dean Wesley Smith, Howard Tayler, pretty much everyone I admire, lives on the other side of the world. And even when I knew Tayler was going to be in Finland, for the World Fantasy Convention last August, I put that aside. Didn’t have the time. Didn’t have the strength to chance it. Promised myself that I’d go meet them some other WorldCon. When I’d made enough money from my writing.

Wrong. Read More

20 Feb

Plotting with Pain – Who’d be the Most Hurt?

How to Plot using Pain

How to Plot using PainLet’s say you have an idea for a setting, or an event, or a new type of technology, but you can’t transform it into a plot. There’s simply no action there, no conflict. All you’ve got is a “what if…”

How about you take one of those what ifs and ask “who would be the most hurt by this?” I.e.:

“What if all people could suddenly fly? Who would be the most hurt by this?”

Airlines. Airline pilots. Airline maintenance workers. What if it’s a airplane mechanic who really loves his planes, but now they’re all worthless and nobody wants them? “The Airplane Whisperer, coming soon to a theater near you…”

Second point would be to see how badly you can make the person hurt. Read More

10 Feb

Challenge: Meet a New Person next week

So I’m reading this book called “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives” by Tim Harford. Harford references a psychology study where executives, entrepreneurs and high-powered consultants and similar go-getters were invited to a high-power networking event.

But there was a twist. Each attendant got a tag that tracked where they were in the room, and who they talked to. And it turns out that although every attendant stated beforehand that they went in order to meet new people and make new business ties, immediately upon entering the room, they made a beeline for old friends – and stayed there the entire event. If they did speak to a stranger, it was because the stranger was a friend of a friend. Read More